Detroit Tigers opt for opener vs. Diamondbacks to change struggling Joey Wentz’s fortunes

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers made an early change to their pitching plans in the series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday morning.

Rather than start left-hander Joey Wentz, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch opted to go with right-handed reliever Will Vest in an “opener” role, lasting no more than a couple innings.

Since making his strongest start of the season on May 8 against the Cleveland Guardians – allowing two runs over 5⅔ innings – Wentz has struggled, with 20 earned runs allowed over 17⅔ innings, for a 10.19 ERA.

Hinch said the move was made with an eye toward changing Wentz’s fortunes. Over the past month, the lefty has been tagged for 36 hits, including four home runs.

HOW TO WATCH: Morning game with Diamondbacks not on TV and only on Peacock

“One is their lineup, and two is, we’ve gotta give Joey a different look,” Hinch said. “Either it changes third time through the order, or really just break this continual grind that he’s been in.”

Opposing batters have thrived against Wentz later in games; their OPS against him soars from .768 the first time through the lineup to 1.127 – with a slash line of .345/.472/.655 – the third time around.

Vest entered Sunday with a 3.47 ERA, 25 strikeouts and nine walks over 23⅓ innings this season. Right-handed hitters have mustered just a .507 OPS against Vest in 54 plate appearances in 2023.

Wentz entered Sunday with a 1-6 record in 2023 with a 7.49 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 22 walks over 51⅔ innings in his second big-league season.

THE BIG PICTURE: 5 Detroit Tigers players that matter most in 2023 season

Vierling close to return?

A familiar face was back in the Tigers clubhouse on Sunday morning, as shouts of “Shermy” rang out.

That would be outfielder Matt Vierling, who has been on the 10-day injured list since May 30 (retroactive to May 29) with back soreness.

“He’s not playing today in either place (Detroit or Toledo), and obviously Toledo being close, he came in,” Hinch said. “I just saw him on my walk through, I told him I’d see him after this session and we’ll kind of determine what’s next for him. Like, he will play somewhere tomorrow, but we haven’t determined where.”

Vierling has played two games in a rehab stint with Triple-A Toledo. He went 1-for-3 while playing right field for the Mud Hens on Friday, then went 0-for-4 in a stint in center field on Saturday. The Tigers open a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, while the Mud Hens begin a series on the road against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. The Tigers’ High-A (West Michigan) and Double-A (Erie) affiliates are also off Monday and opening series’ on the road Tuesday.

When Vierling does return to the big-league roster – he was eligible to come off the IL on Sunday – he’ll likely see time in center, as starting center fielder Riley Greene is out until at least July.

“Obviously, when Riley was healthy, he didn’t get a ton of work there, and then when we put him there, think he’s had one mistake there, but no, he’s a good outfielder,” Hinch said.

Vierling has made four appearances in center for the Tigers this season, with the majority of his games – 40 appearances – in right. Last season, with the Philadelphia Phillies, Vierling appeared in 61 games in center, 37 in right and 30 in left. (He also appeared in the infield 11 times.)

The 26-year-old was hitting .241 with four home runs, six doubles and four steals in 175 plate appearances when he was placed on the IL. The Tigers’ outfield depth has taken a hit over the past two weeks, with Greene going on the IL on May 31 and Akil Baddoo joining him there Saturday with a quad strain. Kerry Carpenter returned from the IL on Friday and started in left field on Sunday, with Jake Marisnick (acquired in a trade on May 31) in center and Zach McKinstry, an infielder by trade, in right.

Articles You May Like

Atlanta 2, Detroit 1: Early runs spell doom
GameThread: Tigers vs. Astros, 4:10 p.m.
Days of Roar: Tough questions on Detroit Tigers’ .500 level of play
Tigers 0, Astros 4: Tigers shut out in the Lone Star state
Alex Lange To Undergo Lat Surgery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *